Long ago, around ten thousand years ago to be exact, gluten made its way into the human diet.
Rather than meat, animal fat, and wild plants and roots, humans began eating heavily grain-based diets. You can learn more about why the food supply changed in a previous post about the paleo diet prior to the agricultural era.
During this time, grains were refined in vast quantities to be used as a food source for entire communities. Soaking, sprouting, grinding, and cooking grains became the “norm”, and as we’ve discussed before, this caused a noticeable effect in the size of the human body and brain.
Starting in ancient Egypt, societies faced more widespread autoimmune and degenerative diseases like diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Let’s take a look at why this happened…
Key Nutrients Missing From a Grain-Free Diet
Introducing grains, and processing them, was an important decision that allowed societies to grow and improve. But, what the ex-hunters and gatherers (turned farmers) did not consider were the nutrients that were stripped from the grains during processing.
In a nutshell, this lack of nutrients led to more frequent and varied disease across communities and populations.
It is difficult to pinpoint all of the nutrients the earliest grain-based diets removed, but most grains and cereals today need to be fortified or enriched with B vitamins, iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and even calcium.
Early grains including wheat, rye, and barley had many nutrients and high quality carbohydrates that were (and are to this day) destroyed when milled and refined. This means that the body is forced to metabolize them differently, and that they actually provide less energy and general nutrition.
Instead, those refined grains increase blood sugar levels, trigger gluten reactions (including inflammation), and promote fat storage. While foods are now fortified and enriched, providing essential nutrients for people who eat gluten-containing bread and cereal, that is not the case for people who eat gluten-free.
So, how do you replace these nutrients in your diet?
Complex Carbs’ Importance to a Healthy Gluten-Free Diet
The missing fiber and essential vitamins lost to refining have to be replaced with whole foods and specifically, complex carbohydrates. These nutrients determine how your body protects itself from illness, create energy, form red blood cells, move oxygen, keep bones healthy, and so much more.
All people should eat whole foods, but complex, slow carbs are even more important if you’re gluten-free because gluten-free carbs can be tough to come by.
Slow carbs are complex carbs that are also low glycemic because they break down glucose slowly. Unlike processed grains, they keep your blood sugar constant instead of spiking it. And if you didn’t already know, at the CeliAct Blog we’re strong proponents of a gluten-free low glycemic diet.
Beans and lentils, dark leafy green vegetables, quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oatmeal are great suggestions for complex, slow carbohydrates.
Because most slow carbs require cooking or at the very least a microwave, it does take some extra planning and preparation to make sure you’re incorporating them into your diet. But, this is just a small sacrifice for the huge health benefits that complex carbs can deliver.